Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 19


When an elderly person passes away, it is left to the living to gather up all the things left behind. Decisions must be made: What will be kept and treasured? What will be donated? What will be given to children and grandchildren?  Hopefully, the wants and desires of the deceased will be honored, but even then, there are some things that are just puzzles.

Perhaps no one wants the item. Perhaps more than one wants it.
Sometimes the value of an item is hard to see.
An old, faded out mirror. Sliding it out from behind a trunk, the edges are battered. The face of it is cracked. The "silver" is coming through in places.

Oh, the happy times that this mirror reflected years ago! A joyous couple -- the groom carrying the bride across the threshold. The first baby brought home. Many wonderful memories.

But now, as we look in the mirror, it doesn't reflect clearly. The crack distorts our faces and the silvered places leave gaps in what we want to see.
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (I Corinthians 13:12)
That mirror made me think of this verse....and you know, it is OK that we don't understand everything.
Seriously.
Just because we don't have answers for every question, it's still alright. If we can't satisfy an unbeliever's loaded question, it's OK. If we wonder silently about things that aren't laid out for us in the Word, that's OK, too.
The Spirit can use our questions to teach us, to guide us to look and study the Bible, and to pray for God to illuminate our way. All of this can grow our faith.

You see, we don't know all there is to know about God, about the Son and the Spirit, or about His plan for us. But here's the beautiful part: He created us to love Him, He loves us devotedly, and He forgives us continuously!

All the rest can be "puzzling." But a time is coming when we will know everything completely....just as He knows us completely.

Even so, come quickly, Lord!



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Verses that inspire us

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10)
Such familiar verses!
I was blessed by these in my studies....

I'm sure that we have all heard the descriptions of this passage. Jesus was referring to the usual practice of shepherds, who used "corrals" made of piled up rocks to guard their sheep in the night. Thorns and briers were laid on top of the rock walls, to discourage wild animals' thoughts of lamb suppers. (Grin) Then the shepherd would lie down in the opening in the rock wall.

Any threat to the sheep would have to pass by him first.
In this way, Jesus is saying that He is protection for His sheep.
But in verse nine, He also says He is the entrance -- the sheep must go through Him. Those who enter through Him will be saved.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
And those sheep will be able to come in and to go out. What a picture of our lives in Christ! We are free to come and go, and still be in the presence and protection of our Lord!
Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17)
Jesus totally and completely fulfills this passage, as He leads us each day; we can go out and come in to the safety of the corral, all the while being in His care.

I hope these verses bless your heart as they did mine....if a verse has inspired, comforted, or convicted you recently, won't you share it with us, please?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 18


I enjoy being outdoors. I love helping out. So it stands to reason that I should help with the abundance of chores around here. Especially mowing!

Slather on the sunscreen, plop a hat on my head, and give me some ear protection, and I'm off to the races! Well, not really.

Mowing is actually something that you need to focus on. You want to get as close as safely possible around things, so that there isn't much trimming left over. Since you need to come back afterwards and trim, right?

Also, there are things sometimes hidden in the tall grass that can be problems..... actually, I'm usually warned about those. My resident expert knows these pastures like the back of his hand, and can tell me about holes, rocks, and critter dens.

But sometimes I get distracted. I lose focus. I'm sitting on the tractor and I look up at the edge of the pasture, where the tall trees are swaying in the breeze. The wind turns some of their leaves wrong-side out, so they look a silvery green, and I can see the creek is glistening on the other side. I duck to avoid the occasional branch, and then turn the tractor (carefully, so the front end loader doesn't hit a tree or a fence-post) and go back across the pasture. Seconds later......BAM!!!!

The tractor stops.

My heart stops and I start looking at the tractor to see if anything is broken, or if all is well. I know that in the other pasture, my resident expert has probably heard the small explosion and is listening, hands on post-hole diggers, waiting to see if the tractor starts again.

Luckily, this time, the rock shattered into 4,392 pieces and scared several snakes, but didn't harm the tractor.
But the problem was caused by my lack of focus. I wasn't paying close attention to my job, nor to where I was in the pasture.

This happens in the lives of believers, too!

Are we easily distracted in our prayer and study time? How about in our worship? The book of Proverbs tells us that what is in our mind controls our life....here's a quote that talks about it, too:
The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction. John MacArthur
When we pray, are we truly focused on God? Are our minds on other things? We need to be thinking about Him, not our finances, not our grocery list, not our family....we need to be desperate to know His presence; we need to treasure the time that we can focus on Him.
“‘These people honor me with their lips,    but their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15:8)
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
When we focus on Him, He is able to protect us. He can guide us over, around, or through the hidden obstacles that will harm us (like that rock in the grass!).
Remember these verses in Proverbs 4 ....listen, pay attention, accept -- all these are synonyms for staying "focused."
Listen, my son, accept what I say,    and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom    and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;    when you run, you will not stumble. (v 10-12)

My son, pay attention to what I say;    turn your ear to my words. (v 20)
Let your eyes look straight ahead;    fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet    and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left;    keep your foot from evil. (v 25-27)
Lord, I want to know You, really know and treasure You. Please help me to stay focused on You!


Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday slowdown

Praise be to God the Father, and to Jesus His Son!

Let us sing in the midst of our trials..... sing because of His great salvation!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Getting out of the miry clay!


I don't know about you, but I want to make sure that I have joy. I want to be able to sing in spite of the fact that I'm mired down in trials.
If we will "look up" out of the pit, and look at our Savior, we will have joy. Peter reminded us of our salvation first for a reason, I think.
He wants us to know the reason for our rejoicing in the suffering. He says that our inexpressible joy is from realizing that we have that salvation -- even though we have not seen Him, as the apostles did. They saw Him. They walked with Him. They listened to Him. In the flesh. In person.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:8-9)
Remember we said that God is in control? He never leaves us for a vacation or a sick day... Grab those promises from His Word:
God has said,“Never will I leave you;    never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Our love for Jesus, in response to His love on the cross, is our highest motivation. But sometimes do we drift a bit? Like a married couple that has been together for many years, do we need to rekindle our love for our Savior? It may be the same in our relationship with the Lord...
We can rekindle that love by spending time with Him. Make time to read His Word. Don't be rushed in our prayer time, but listen for His leading.
Once we know His leading, we need to obey. Jesus told us:
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10)
Then, remember His sacrifice for us. If you are a member of a local congregation, join in the remembrance of His last supper with the disciples. He told us to do this in "remembrance" of Him. It's a tangible way to take the time to receive the blessing of His love, and tell Him of our love for Him.

Surely, if we do these things, we will sing in the mire, and have joy in our trials!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Singing - not in the bathtub, but in the mire


That title got ya, huh? (Grin)
Do you ever sing in the tub? Or the shower? Kinda fun, isn't it? And it's hard to be sad when you're singing....
When we left our studies last time, Paul and Silas were in prison -- they'd been beaten for witnessing about Jesus, and then left in a musty, filthy prison for the night.....and they were singing!

David sang, too, to the Lord, and not just when he was rejoicing. He sang when he was blue; I kinda think that with the Lord helping him, and the songs too, that soon he was singing and rejoicing. Even in the muck and the mire.

And those are good examples for all of us. Are we in the midst of trials? Are we suffering with stress? Are we distressed because we are being ridiculed or reviled for our faith? Here is our focus passage again:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:6-9)
We're examining this concept of rejoicing in our trials.... let's look at the "why" because sometimes even veteran believers look around and whisper, "Why me, Lord?"

Stop the presses.
The Savior takes everyone that He loves through trials.
Wait, if He loves me, why does He do that?
That's our human side talking, no?
Let's look at some verses that should be very precious to us....
Remember this one about our Lord?
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Later in Hebrews, it talks about us:
"because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:6-7)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (I Peter 4:12)
No one is exempt....while we are here as travelers, there are going to be trials, and even persecution for the sake of our Lord. But there are untold blessings, as well. Remember what Jesus told us in John 10? He gives us a truly abundant life. Many times, instead of stacks of gold coins, the abundance is the deep, peaceful joy that we feel, even in the miry clay -- the joy of our salvation.

But we haven't fully answered that plaintive question -- "why?"
In verse seven, Paul says that it's so our faith can be tested and refined; all the impurities will be removed, so that the final product (like the refined gold) is stronger. We can't be saved without faith. We can't buy it with gold. That is why Peter says faith is more precious than gold. Only our faith in Jesus will make the difference when we stand before God the Father.
God doesn't test our faith in order to make us fail. He does it in order for us to succeed. When we go through trials, we have to trust Him in ways that we never would, if all were sunshine and rainbows!

Peter gives us another clue about trials and the testing of our faith: it's temporary! He says "for a little while." And even though we may have been stressed about an issue for years, in the comparison with eternity, those years are just "a little while."
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Corinthians 4:17)
So, if in the midst of our pain (which we don't cover up or deny) we can keep our focus on two facts, we can have joy -- these trials strengthen our faith, and they are just temporary; salvation is for eternity!
One more thing can help us sing while in the miry clay: all of these trials are under God's control. He hasn't forgotten us. He hasn't gone on vacation. He hasn't even drowsed off to sleep. He knows what we are dealing with, and He has a plan to help us through.
...according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  (Ephesians 1:11b)
We'll finish up this study tomorrow -- hope you will join us!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Prayer requests


This week for our prayer time, I'd like to remind us all of some words in Acts....

First, let me ask a question:

 Are you ever persecuted for your faith?

Is there an attempt by Satan to stop you from being a witness?

Are you ridiculed when you speak a word for the Lord?

Worse, are you told that you must not speak up for Him?

There are very few times and places where it is OK for others to ask us not to speak of Him, or share our testimony. Very few.
But today, people are emboldened by the pervasive world-view that says, "Christians shouldn't speak up! They are second-class citizens, too!"

I'd like to encourage all of us to take the time to pray, and ask God for brave faith, and the wisdom to use it effectively.

Yes, we need to witness for Him. People need to hear of His love and mercy. And we need to have discernment of where and when to speak.

Are you at work? Give 110% of yourself during the time you are on the clock....it's on breaks and after work that you can witness to your friends and acquaintances. This is biblical. And it's that 110% that will be a good "silent witness" since many people today do not try to work hard or be reliable. But the New Testament says that is important for us believers!

If we slack off, and don't work during work hours, we are not being honest, and we're cheating our employer.
For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. (II Corinthians 8:21)
This is just one example of witnessing in today's world. We'll discuss others as we can....

I hope that if you have a prayer request, you will leave a comment and let us pray with you!